With one of the best bats in South Korea slated to come to Major League Baseball this offseason, I was excited to see that FanGraphs put out the ZiPS translations and projections on shortstop Ha-Seong Kim’s production in the KBO and in MLB.
As you can see in the article here and in the charts below, Kim’s production the last five years in the KBO translate to strong MLB results for a young shortstop, and the projections going forward are even more enticing:
— Brad (@ballskwok) October 12, 2020
If you knew you were actually going to get that kind of production out of Kim the next five years, you’d probably be signing him for more than $100 million over those five years, no questions asked, even in the current environment. Of course, there is variance to the upside and the downside, and when you DO throw in the current environment, it’s virtually impossible to predict where the final price tag is going to go. Suffice to say, the data think Kim is probably going to be pretty good in MLB.
In addition to the data points, Kim also ranks as the top international prospect on FanGraphs’ scouting board (no real surprise there), with a value translation that pegs him somewhere around the top 50 to 100 prospects in baseball (but with much lower risk). To be able to get a player like that for cash, who is only about to turn 25, and who can slide right into your middle infield … these opportunities are extremely rare.
Also, while it matters less than his production, it’s gotta count for something: your franchise could instantly have a Korean baseball star. For organizations that seek to have worldwide appeal, that matters, right?
(I’m already thinking about how the Dodgers are going to snag Kim, let him play third or second for a year before Corey Seager walks, and then let Kim take over at shortstop. It’s what they do.)
I recognize the financial questions in trying to actually land Kim, but we’re gonna keep banging the drum that the fit is perfect even if the timing is not:
Do I think Kim is an interesting potential Cubs target? Well, of course! He’s young, talented, and available at a position of theoretical need – by which I mean the Cubs have a hole at second base and have a shortstop, Javy Báez, heading into his final year of team control.
The Cubs could theoretically 1) play Kim at second base alongside Báez for a year before moving Kim to short long-term and letting Báez walk, 2) play Kim at shortstop immediately with Báez shifting to second for a year, before letting Báez walk, or 3) keep both in their long-term plans up the middle by signing Kim and eventually extending Báez, playing these guys at whichever position suits them best. (Drools.)
But given the Cubs financial situation this offseason, I really don’t know how much money will be available, even for a seemingly perfect fit like Kim. The Cubs likely don’t have zero money, but every indication is that things will be tight. Could they make an exception for a very young, long-term piece like Kim? Might they view this and next year’s offseason budgets together as one unit, since so much money will come off the books after the 2021 season? Maybe I’m stretching because I want the Cubs to add a potentially perfect bat to the mix? Yup!
A reminder on the Kim scouting report from BA, when he was ranked as the top MLB prospect in the KBO:
He’s a 24-year-old shortstop who hit .307/.389/.491 with 19 home runs, 104 RBI and 33 stolen bases in 37 attempts for Kiwoom last year. Kim is a solid all-around player who projects to stick at shortstop. He is a good athlete with good instincts at the position and has the average arm strength to stay on the left side of the infield. He projects to be an above-average hitter and has enough power to hit 12-15 home runs per year in the majors.
Kim is likely to face an adjustment period at the plate when he first arrives in the U.S., but he has the athleticism and twitch to adjust and eventually hit major league velocity. He is a plus runner who adds value on the bases as well.